in buddhism, there is a form of meditation called tong-len which literally means “giving and receiving”. in this meditation you visualize yourself taking on all the sufferings of others and giving back to them all of your good karma and anything else that may help them. it’s an incredibly altruistic thing as you are basically doing everything you can for others by taking from yourself. Jamyang, the monk who we’ve been helping, chose Tong-len as the name for his organization.
the organization has taken 10 kids from the beggar’s camps near mcleod ganj and has given them a chance at a future. tong-len’s main aim is to give these kids an education so that when they grow up, they can make something of themselves. but, how can you convince a child to go to school when they dont even have a home to live in or decent clothing to wear? so, tong-len has rented a house to be used as a hostel so the kids can live there. the organization has set up beds there, bought the kids school uniforms, has someone cook them food, pays for their schooling, and pays for all sorts of other stuff to make this possible. thanks to tong-len, these kids, who have had no schooling at all, have been making great progress. in the next month, they plan to add 10 more kids to the program as well.
unfortunately, despite its great motivations, tong-len doesnt really have too much money to acheive its goals. the small amount of money that they have is acquired from a small handful of sponsors and barely covers the basic necesseties for the kids. for instance, although the kids now have new school uniforms (a requirement by the school), back at the hostel, they still wear the same grubby old clothing that they’ve always owned. a few days back, i told Jamyang that Caryn and i would like to donate some money to his organization, and that my parents would like to donate some money as well. Jamyang thought that a great way to put this money to use would be to buy some new clothes for the kids. the kids would be so excited to finally have some *new* clothes to call their own!
so, yesterday, we set out on a shopping trip. before we got to the clothes though, jamyang asked us if we could buy a new water storage tank for the hostel. the water in town often gets shut off, so it’s important to have a tank to store water. in fact, the water at the hostel had been broken for the last 3 or 4 days and they’ve had no water!! next, we went to several different fabric stores and chose the color and type of material that would be used to make pants and shirts for the kids. we tried to pick colors that were not too dark (so the kids wouldnt get too hot), but not too light (so it wouldnt look too dirty) but at the same time we tried to choose colors that wouldnt be too drabn and boring. also, since it’s obvious how important fun is when you’re a kid, we had some of our donation money used to buy some games for the kids. once we bought all the materials, we went back to the hostel and a tailor came by to measure all the kids. the kids filed in, one at a time, and a tailor took down their measurements to make the clothes
all in all, it was a really cool day. it really felt good to be doing something to help all these kids. it turned out that to make 10 sets of pants and ten sets of shirts, the cost of the materials and putting them together only was $100!! the water tank also cost almost a hundred bucks, and we just gave tong-len the rest of our donation money in cash. we know that they’ll use it well. Jamyang says that when the clothes are finished, he’s even going to email us photos of the kids in their new clothes.
i really hope that tong-len continues getting the funding they need so they can keep doing what they do. and even besides getting funding, the battle that jamyang has to fight each day is so rough. fighting against kid’s parents, schoolboards, landlords, etc. he really is doing such a good thing. i’m looking forward to seeing how everything turns out…